Will Contests

Legal Counsel for Probate Disputes in Ocala

Will contests are adversary proceedings brought in probate court. Under Florida law, nobody can contest or challenge a will before the death of the person who made it. Often, beneficiaries and heirs do not know what was bequeathed or not bequeathed to them until after the testator’s death. Once you know what the will says, and know that you want to challenge it, you should be aware there are short deadlines for will contests. You have only 90 days to consider your options, get your case together, and file a formal will contest. This time frame is shortened to 20 days under particular circumstances, so you should contact an experienced lawyer as soon as you realize you may want to contest the will. The Ocala will contest attorneys of the Dean Law Firm represent clients in estate disputes throughout Florida, including in Crystal River and The Villages.

Grounds for Will Contests in Florida

Oftentimes, the primary basis for a will contest is to argue that the will was not properly executed. This is generally the most straightforward way to contest a will. The requirements for creating a will are created by statute. First, the person making the will must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. The document must be examined to determine whether it was executed appropriately under Fla. Stat. § 732.502. This means the will must be in writing, signed by its maker in the presence of two witnesses with an acknowledgement that it was so signed, and signed by two witnesses in the presence of each other and the person making the will.

The last element is typically the part most easily contested. Wills are held invalid when witnesses testify they didn't sign in each other's physical presence. Even being in different rooms of the same house while the document is signed can invalidate the will. Sometimes people who make the will use a "self-proof affidavit" that indicates the testator and witnesses signed in front of each other. But this also may be vulnerable to challenge.

Another basis for challenging a will is lack of mental and testamentary capacity. Just as a person must be at least 18 years old to make a will, a person must also be of sound mind. Those who change their wills at the very end of their lives after suffering mental illness or cognitive decline may have wills that are particularly susceptible to challenge for lack of mental and testamentary capacity.

You can also challenge a will by arguing that it was created under undue influence. Too often, people try to obtain financial gain by manipulating, threatening, or coercing an elderly person into changing his or her will. This can be difficult to prove, particularly if an elderly family member was living on his or her own in Florida, while you lived in another state. However, if you believe your loved one was the victim of undue influence in making a will, you should talk to an experienced probate attorney.

Consult a Crystal River Probate Litigation Attorney

There is limited time to contest a will in Florida. Although you cannot bring a will contest before a loved one's death, the window closes fairly quickly after his or her passing. Therefore, it is important to consult an experienced probate litigation lawyer as soon as a will's contents raise your suspicion. Call the Dean Law Firm at 352-387-8700 or contact us via our online form. We serve clients in a number of local areas, including Marion, Sumter, Lake, Citrus, and Levy Counties.